I remember when the US Embassy in Budapest began to e-mail all citizens living in Hungary the “Health Alerts” regarding the global pandemic. We were getting similar messages from some family and friends in the United States, who were worried for what would happen next. There was legitimate concern for our safety, and for the overall well-being of our children. No one really knew how such an illness would impact local health systems, and priority would likely be given to citizens above foreigners like us.
In the midst of it all, came the alarming phrase in their e-mails which began to come once a week: “US Citizens who wish to return to the US should make arrangements as soon as possible unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.”
That word: Indefinite. What did they really mean?
We were committed to serve in Hungary for two years, with residency permits that were active until May 2021. We could only afford to live there, as long as people in the US continued to send financial support. All of that seems pretty “finite”.
Against my better judgment, but as a desperate act of a servant of God who also wants to be a good husband/father, I e-mailed the US Embassy in Budapest. I can only imagine the giggle of frustration that person must have let out, when they read my words that pretty much said, “Can you more accurately define, “indefinite”? It seems counter-intuitive to even ask.
We ultimately decided to stay, trusting in the provisions of God and the caution of the Hungarian people/procedures. But it wasn’t without much prayer and repetitive “giving it to God” each day (which continues even as we’re in the US, preparing to return to Hungary in a few weeks).
Today as I looked back reflecting on those moments, I realize the grace of God that enables you and I to experience just that: defining the indefinable. We serve a God that is infinitely “other”. God is not like any other power or force or myth or legend we’ve ever heard. Yet God is also Love, and so He is constantly working to reveal Himself, pursue us in our finite-ness, and help us to understand His Love, His Hope, and His redemptive presence.
The message we have from scripture is: God is beyond our ability to contain, understand, or control. But God is also ceaselessly the One who says: “Look, this is who I am. Understand my Love as revealed in the person of Jesus. Join my redemptive activity. I am with you. Be filled by my Spirit.”
He created & sustains the cosmos, yet knows & loves us so personally Jesus tells us even the hairs on our head are numbered.
In the grand spectrum of religions and beliefs that exist in our world, this stands out in incredible ways. There is no secret knowledge we need to discover. There is no special location we are required to visit, or holy relic we need access to. There is no complex work we must pursue to find Him. There is no way to manipulate or control the divine for our own purposes. Jesus comes as humble invitation for every age, every income/race/nation – as the infinite God who became finite humanity in order to completely transform & fill everything that was broken with healing New Life of the age to come.
For we finite beings to offer ourselves to the Loving purposes of the infinite today, seems counter-intuitive. Yet, Jesus looks into your eyes today saying “follow me…”